BLUE HILL — Making his way toward the George Stevens Academy bench, Ben Hallett was completely gassed.
As he exited Tuesday’s boys’ soccer game against Mount Desert Island, Hallett, a member of the GSA boys’ soccer team, had played the bulk of two 80-minute soccer games in just over 24 hours. After going toe to toe with energetic, physical Ellsworth and MDI teams on consecutive days, the GSA senior was completely spent.
“Holy cow, that was tough,” Hallett said. “We’ve definitely had some long games, and we’re used to playing two in a row — we’ve got the endurance to do it — but those were two tough games. We gave it everything.”
The Eagles did nothing less early this week in a pair of Hancock County battles. The games didn’t come easy, but a resilient GSA team came away with a pair of victories that are certain to pay dividends down the road.
GSA improved to 4-0 on the season with home victories Monday against Ellsworth and Tuesday against MDI. Wins in the physical, fast-paced, technical contests gave the Eagles both vital points in the Heals and a bit of early-season momentum as the team continues a challenging stretch of the schedule.
On Monday, GSA secured a 2-1 win over Ellsworth in the Battle of the Eagles. The home team rode advantageous positioning and some fortuitous bounces to two first-half goals and survived an Ellsworth goal early in the second half to prevail in the matchup.
After an uneventful opening 20 minutes, GSA took a 1-0 lead with 16 minutes, 33 seconds left in the first half. The goal came as Arden Weaver struck a winding ball that snuck past Ellsworth goalkeeper Craig Burnett and into the back of the net.
GSA survived a scare moments later as Ellsworth’s Kal Laslie hit the post on a well-placed free kick. The home team then doubled its advantage with 3:59 left in the half as Ellsworth scored an own goal following a frantic attempt to clear the ball on a corner kick.
Ellsworth, though, bossed the game early in the second half and pulled a goal back when Kai Barrett fired home from close range following a relentless attack by Cruz Coffin. Yet GSA hung on for the win thanks to key saves from Harrison Walden, who stopped a pair of powerful shots from Ellsworth’s Eamon MacDonald that looked to be goal-bound.
“Our defense held their own, and I did my job and did what I had to do on a few of those shots,” Walden said. “On that first save, that was all instinct. The ball was high, and I knew if I didn’t do whatever I could to get my fingertips on it that it was going to get past me.”
Returning to action for another home game Tuesday, GSA claimed another 2-1 win, this time over a potent MDI squad. The Eagles scored twice in the first four minutes of the second half to overcome a great team goal from the Trojans early in the contest.
MDI opened the scoring after just 10 minutes as Sophia Baker and Cole Watson combined for a brilliant tally. Baker kept possession of the ball under pressure and dribbled past two GSA midfielders before delivering an inch-perfect pass down the left flank to Watson, who made an artful cut inside and fired past Walden to put the Trojans up 1-0.
After neither team conjured much in the way of scoring chances in the first half, GSA found the net twice in quick succession in the second. Monte Weaver scored from close range for the Eagles just 24 seconds after kickoff, and Hallett put the home team ahead just three minutes later.
“We could definitely feel [the momentum changing] after we were able to get that goal right away,” Hallett said. “When you score a goal in the first 30 seconds like that, no matter what, it’s going to energize you. Everyone was hooting and hollering, and we took it from there.”
Following GSA’s go-ahead goal, MDI (0-2) was able to pressure the home team some as Ieuan Howell curled two threatening balls just over the net. Yet the GSA defense regained its footing, and the Eagles won the possession battle over the final 20 minutes and ran out the clock on the Trojans to seal the second of two grueling wins.
As both scorelines would attest, there was little talent or energy disparity evident between GSA and either of its early-week opponents. Being able to prevail in such contests, head coach Mark Ensworth said, was a testament to the team’s drive and mental fortitude.
“These are the games that you really want to be able to win,” Ensworth said after Monday’s victory over Ellsworth. “When you can go into those tough games like this and come away with a win, that says a lot about your team and who you are.”
GSA will be back in action at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, when it takes on Class C North-leading Orono (3-0) at Orono High School. The team will then battle Ellsworth, which improved to 1-1-1 with a 5-3 win Tuesday against John Bapst, at 6 p.m. next Wednesday, Sept. 22, at Ellsworth’s Del Luce Stadium.
“If we can get that one against Orono, it’s going to set us up really nicely for the rest of the season,” Hallett said. “We’re playing good teams every single game, and we know we’re going to be seeing all of them again. Our goal is just to work hard and get the same results.”